Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




From 1920 to 1954 morality legislation was a mutual concern for many of the state's voters and legislators. Liquor control and prohibition were the most conspicuous moral issues to face the legislature and the electorate, but other measures to regulate Sunday movies and baseball, smoking, and dancing were introduced. It is the purpose of this study to define these measures and to try to determine selected social and cultural traits of the defenders and opponents of morality legislation.

Since North Dakota's electorate had a direct voice in the legislative process through the use of the initiative and referendum, it was possible to examine the votes for and against morality legislation which appeared as referred or initiated measures. An exar.4nation of the state's fifty- three counties revealed that voters in some counties consistently accepted or rejected morality legislation. Religious and ethnic compositions of eight of these counties were compared to determine any differences in the acceptance or rejection of morality legislation among religious or ethnic groups. Four additional counties which contained the state's four largest cities were selected to determine any differences between the reactions of urban and rural voters to morality legislation. The ethnic, religious, urban, and rural variables which characterized the sample counties provided a gauge to compare votes on morality legislation.

The study revealed that Norwegians, most of whom were Lutherans, tended to favor prohibition and other morality legislation, while German-Russians, most of whom were Roman Catholics, tended to oppose morality legislation. The study also indicated that a greater percentage of rural voters, rather than urban voters, approved morality legislation. Thus, it appeared that North Dakota voters approved morality legislation when there was an important traditional, religious, or social sanction against the use of intoxicants or other activities which were considered immoral.